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House advances resolution to censure Rep. Jamaal Bowman for falsely pulling fire alarm

Washington — A resolution to censure Democratic Rep. Jamaal Bowman of New York for falsely pulling a fire alarm in a Capitol Hill office building moved forward on Wednesday when a Democratic motion to block the resolution failed.

Rep. Lisa McClain of Michigan, the secretary of the House Republican Conference, introduced a privileged resolution on Tuesday to censure Bowman for pulling an alarm before a last-minute vote to fund the government in September. The privileged nature of the measure forced a vote on it within two legislative days, giving the House until Thursday to act on it. 

The House voted 201 to 216 on the Democratic motion to table the resolution, falling short of the simple majority support needed to effectively kill it. One lawmaker voted present.

Censure is a type of formal reprimand by the House for conduct that falls short of warranting expulsion.

The New York lawmaker pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor charge in late October. He agreed to pay a $1,000 fine and serve three months of probation for activating the fire alarm that led to the office building's evacuation. Bowman said he was "rushing to make" the vote when he triggered the alarm. Footage of the incident was caught by a security camera.

Rep. Jamaal Bowman leaves the U.S. Capitol Building on May 23, 2023.
Rep. Jamaal Bowman leaves the U.S. Capitol Building on May 23, 2023. Anna Moneymaker / Getty Images

"Representative Bowman forced the evacuation of the Cannon House Office Building and disrupted the work of the Congress as a vote was underway on the floor of the House," McClain's resolution said. 

The House Ethics Committee declined last month to open an investigation into Bowman over the matter. 

Censure motions have become more frequent in recent years with the increasing polarization of Congress. They typically don't advance to a floor vote, but it's becoming more common as lawmakers seek to fast-track them by introducing them as privileged. 

Two Democrats have been censured this year. Michigan Rep. Rashida Tlaib was censured in a bipartisan vote in November after her defense of a rallying cry that is widely regarded as calling for the elimination of Israel. Republicans voted to censure California Rep. Adam Schiff in June for his role in congressional investigations of former President Donald Trump. 

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